What the Bible Says About “Swearing” and “Dirty Words”

What’s so bad about profanity? My parents won’t let me watch movies with “bad language.” But what they call swearing is just a part of life. My friends use four-letter words all the time. The words are just old Anglo Saxon terms for normal bodily functions. They’re only “dirty” because some people say so. Besides, the Bible doesn’t say anything against them (other than telling us not to take God’s name in vain — but that’s a different issue).
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The Bible has more to say than we realize

Check out what the apostle Paul says about the language Christians should use: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (Ephesians 4:29, MSG).

Paul also says, “There should not be even a hint of sexual sin among you. Don’t do anything impure. And do not always want more and more. These are not the things God’s holy people should do. There must not be any bad language or foolish talk or dirty jokes. They are out of place. Instead, you should give thanks” (Ephesians 5:3-4, NIRV).

The meaning of words can change

Tracing the history of words to find out why they’re seen as profanity can be interesting. But that information has nothing to do with the way people use the words in modern times.

As Christians, we should consider how these words are perceived in our culture today. For example:

  • What do people really mean when they use the f-word?
  • What are they trying to communicate?
  • How does it feel when someone says it to you?
  • Is there any way the f-word can build others up?
  • Does it ever benefit those who hear it?

Of course not. Profanity is always negative and hurtful. In fact, it amounts to verbal abuse — and Jesus had some important things to say about the seriousness of that issue (see Matthew 5:22).

Instead, we should speak positive and encouraging words. The apostle Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV).

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